After their seven-game winning streak across all competitions ended, the New York Liberty will have to guard against fatigue — while Sabrina Ionescu just hopes to get her custom insoles back.
The Liberty will complete a road back-to-back on Friday when they pay a visit to the Phoenix Mercury.
New York (24-7) will play for the third time in four nights and the fourth time in six to conclude a busy week. The Liberty won the Commissioner's Cup title on Tuesday with an 82-63 rout of the Las Vegas Aces. The Liberty and Aces resumed the regular-season slate against one another two nights later, and Las Vegas got its revenge with an 88-75 victory.
Before Thursday's game, Ionescu wrote on social media that her signature Nike Sabrina 1 sneakers had been stolen from the Aces' arena.
"She's got some (other) shoes here. They travel with enough shoes. It was just about the insoles," Liberty coach Sandy Brondello said before the game. "She can get plenty of shoes. But we're on the road, so it's not like we can just get some insoles."
While Ionescu's feet may not have felt the same, the two-time All-Star still managed to bury 6 of 12 3-point attempts and led New York with 22 points in the loss. Breanna Stewart added 13 points and seven rebounds, and she continues to lead the team in both categories (22.9 points, 9.1 boards per game).
The Mercury (9-21) were dealt a late blow Thursday night when their only two centers, Brittney Griner and Megan Gustafson, entered health and safety protocol and were ruled out for Friday.
Griner is the team's leading scorer (17.9 points per game) and rebounder (7.0 per game), and Gustafson has filled in capably when Griner has missed time. The Mercury signed forward Liz Dixon, who played seven games for them earlier this year, to a hardship contract.
The Mercury have shown what they are capable of when everything is clicking. Two games ago, Phoenix broke the WNBA record for points in a first quarter with 45 against the Connecticut Sun, a top-three team in the league, and hung on to win 90-84.
Things remained uneven in Phoenix's most recent outing, an 81-71 road loss to the Seattle Storm on Sunday. One bright spot was Sophie Cunningham, who sank four treys en route to 25 points.
"Our third quarter was really good, honestly. Our defense, our offense was good," Cunningham said after the game. "But the good teams, that's what their first, second and fourth quarter also look like. So for us it's (about) consistency."
—Field Level Media